North Chicago, IL –
David Hamby, USMEPCOM command inspector general, was surprised with an honorary Hamby award during a command and staff meeting May 6. The Order of Hamby, or Hamby award, is an internal award for Soldiers at Fort Irwin.
Created in memory of the late U.S. Army Col. Jerrell Hamby, David Hamby’s father, the award is usually presented to opposing force (OPFOR) Soldiers at the Fort Irwin National Training Center. Col. Hamby was killed during a training exercise at Fort Irwin in 1985. Before serving as the opposing force commander at the base, Col. Hamby served as an enlisted Marine during the Korean War and then as a commissioned officer for two tours in Vietnam.
“I was totally unsuspecting of this,” said David Hamby during the award presentation. “I appreciate the gratitude. Thank you.”
The surprise was coordinated by David Sears, J-8 deputy director, who heard of the existence of the award in a previous conversation with David Hamby. David Hamby assumed the award had been retired, but Sears decided to do some research. Sears, who has done multiple rotations at the Fort Irwin National Training Center, reached out to retired U.S. Army Col. Michael Kirkpatrick, who once worked for Sears and was an OPFOR regimental operations officer. Kirkpatrick assured Sears the award is still presented today, and coordinated the delivery of the honorary award to be presented to David Hamby.
“Many in the command may not realize that the current command inspector general is a former Army Airborne Ranger and Blackhawk pilot with an exceptional career,” said Sears. “David Hamby is very humble, but he has done a lot. I thought this would be a great way to honor his own contributions to the Army.”
David Hamby, an Army veteran with more than 20 years of service, takes pride in following his dad’s legacy. The award presentation was a special moment for David Hamby, who appreciated the kind gesture and joked that his father left shoes impossible to fill.
“He was a great role model for me,” said David Hamby. “Funny thing is he had 11 Air Medals. That’s more than I got and I was the aviator.”
Col. Hamby was a highly decorated officer with numerous awards including a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor, two Bronze Star Medals for exceptionally meritorious combat achievements, six Purple Heart Medals for wounds suffered in combat, two Meritorious Service Medals, 11 Air Medals (1 with “V” device) and the Army Commendation Medal. His highest award, the Silver Star, was awarded for his actions during combat operations in Vietnam.
On April 29, 1970, Col. Hamby’s platoon made contact with an enemy force in Vietnam. Col. Hamby led the platoon, coming under intense automatic weapons fire. He persevered forward and single-handedly assaulted the enemy bunker with just a pistol and two hand grenades. An enemy grenade wounded him, but he refused medical evacuation. He would continue to lead the assault until the complex was taken and his platoon was victorious. The coveted Hamby award is a reminder to OPFOR Soldiers of the loyalty and personal courage shown by Col. Hamby.